Cooking Basics: DIY Crushed Pepper

My husband and I enjoy spicy foods, always adding a little heat to our dishes. So when I ended up with a surplus of hot cayenne peppers from last year’s garden, I decided to dry them out.

In the past, I’ve strung the peppers up and hung them to dry, which is truly the “right” way to do it. I confess to being completely distracted by the jars and jars of blueberry jam, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes that I was putting up, and so I picked the peppers, and promptly forgot about them.

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The peppers were in a produce picking basket from a local farm, and stored on top of our refrigerator. Our house stays a pretty even temperature and humidity, and the peppers dried out surprisingly well laid out like this. When I finally took them down, they were bright shades of orange and red, extremely dry and brittle to the touch.

I sorted through and removed any dried peppers that looked off, weren’t completely brittle and dry, or just dried in a discolored manner. Then I broke out the food processor.

Important tip: I highly recommend wearing gloves while handling your peppers, and a face mask if you have one. This might sound like overkill, but I was coughing on the capsaicin while I processed these- they are HOT!

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Remove the stems from the peppers, and add them to the food processor, cover and blend for a few minutes.

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After blending them for a minute or two, I ended with a mix of finely ground peppers and seeds, and some larger, tougher chunks. Using a fine strainer, I sorted out all of the larger pieces, and broke these down further by hand with a mortar and pestle.

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Important Tip: Remember to properly wash your mortar and pestle out afterwards, to remove any capsaicin residue that may be left behind. You don’t want to end up with everything tasting spicy otherwise!

After I was satisfied with the texture, I added the crushed peppers to a jar and labeled them. Pretty easy! You can do this with any pepper that you like, just remember how hot that particular pepper is. With the cayenne, a tiny pinch of this homemade crushed pepper goes a long, long way! Needless to say, I have so much, that I don’t need to include cayenne peppers in my garden this year!

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